Starting the Church in Coldean
In February 1953 Fr Cyril Bess was appointed to the Parish of Moulsecombe to minister to the people of Coldean. A Sunday school was started in Coldean Infant and Junior School early in 1953. Fr Bess lived at 1 Coldean Lane, which was the first vicarage, and was used for church meetings.
Fr Bess started by holding services in the school on Sunday mornings and evenings and used a portable altar for his services. In the first year of Fr. Bess’ ministry at Coldean the Bishop of Lewes confirmed 19 candidates at a service in the school on a Sunday evening in October which was attended by about 300 people.
The church family grew rapidly in Coldean and it was decided that a permanent church building was needed rather than hiring the school for services.
Charles Yates drawing of the barn (at the top of the page) shows it as it appeared in the 1940’s when it was still in use. By the 1950’s the flint barn had fallen into disuse and was derelict.
The Diocese of Chichester decided to buy land at Coldean farm from Brighton Corporation, as the derelict barn was thought suitable for conversion to a church. The Flint Barn has been dated c1800 and was shown in a field called New Barn field on a map surveyed and drawn in 1799 and 1800 by William Figg of Lewes for the Stanmer estate.
Converting the Barn
The foundation stone was laid on Saturday 2nd April 1955 by the Archdeacon of Lewes (the Venerable J. H. E. Morrell). By the 7th November 1955 an altar from St Michaels Church had arrived but needed enlarging.
St. Mary Magdalen, Church at Coldean, was dedicated by the Bishop of Lewes (the Rt. Rev. Geoffrey H. Warde) on Tuesday the 20th December 1955.
The 1960s and 70s.
In September 1968 the Diocese of Chichester decided to build a Vicarage adjacent to the church. This was completed during October 1970 and the Vicarage was moved from 1 Coldean Lane to Selham Drive.
Fr Bess left Coldean in 1960 and was succeeded by Rev. R. D. Payne who carried on the work at St Mary Magdalen until 1963. He was succeeded by Rev. Derek Cordell who worked at Coldean until 1969, when he left to work in the Diocese of Europe.
In September 1969 Rev. Peter Harold Chapman arrived to work in Coldean, and during his ministry further work was commissioned to improve the church and build a separate hall.
The originally church building doubled as a hall which was used by local organisations. In the early 1970’s it was decided to build a separate hall and to enlarge the church. The enlargement of the church involved the building of a new entrance at the west end with a committee room on one side and a choir vestry on the other side. The work was undertaken by members of the church under the direction of Mr Ron Mepham who acted as foreman and clerk of works. The people of the church collected flints from their gardens and fields so that the extension would match the original flint work of the barn. The extension was dedicated by the Bishop of Lewes, The Right Reverent J. H. Lloyd Morrell on Sunday June 1972 before the regular Parish Communion.
The First Cross
The cross, made by Mr Read, was crafted from wood which had been given anonymously. It was placed on the roof at the western end of the church roof and blessed and dedicated at the Family Communion Service on the 16th November 1975.
Unfortunately at the present time (February 2017) the cross has been removed. This was done to prevent more water seeping into the roof where the upright beam of the cross went through the ridge tiles.
It is planned that a replacement will be installed in the future as the cross is central to the Christian Faith.
The Church Hall
The church hall was built by Braybon and Sons of Brighton with the fitting out and decoration being done by church members. The architects were Clayton, Black and Daviel of Prince Albert Street Brighton. The new Church and Community hall was officially opened on 3rd June 1972 after a Service of Thanksgiving in the Church, by the Mayor, Alderman Gordon Packham.
In June 1973 Rev. Peter Chapman went to Plymouth and then to the Dartmouth Naval College to train for service in the marines. He worked as a Royal Navy Chaplain from 1973 to 1986.
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